OPM says USAJobs fixed, but complaints continue

A week into a launch marred by periods of inaccessibility and thousands of user complaints, the federal job search website USAJobs.gov 3.0 is not out of the woods yet.

An Office of Personnel Management official claimed the job search website was finally operating properly late on Oct. 14, and testing by a third party partially supported that finding.

However, significant problems in site operation appear to have returned two days later.

The USAJobs saga so far:

USAJobs.gov 3.0 reboot getting fail reviews from users

USAJobs.gov 3.0 still struggling, but may be improving

OPM blames high demand for USAJobs complaints

Over a five-hour period on Oct. 17, USAJobs.gov 3.0 users logged more than 100 complaints and negative comments—and just one compliment—on the program’s Facebook page.

The problems reported included repeated and prolonged inaccessibility of the website and numerous failed and flawed searches. Dozens of people also indicated they agreed with, or “liked,” the negative comments.

“Website still down,” posted a user. “Not an improvement!” wrote another user. “It keeps telling me to try again in five minutes…I’ve been doing that for five hours,” was a third.

Furthermore, OPM officials, who had been actively communicating with USAJobs.gov users on Facebook and Twitter on Oct. 12 to 14, have substantially cut back on those conversations. The agency apparently made just a handful of Facebook postings on Oct. 17.

The ongoing negative feedback from job seekers, while not a statistical sampling, nonetheless suggests that the site's roller coaster ride is continuing beyond the launch week..

The popular federal job search website was recently revamped and brought in-house on OPM’s own servers. Since deployment of the 3.0 version on Oct. 11, it has had a rough ride.

OPM debuted USAJobs.gov 3.0 after an 18-month overhaul that included developing new software for the job search website and hosting it on OPM’s own servers. Previously, the system had been hosted by Monster.com under a contract.

In the days after the implementation, thousands of users filed complaints about poor technical operation of the site, including failed and incomplete searches, spotty or inaccessible results, vanished data and incorrect geographic information, along with reporting periods of inaccessibility.

Avue Technologies Corp., a vendor of job search services which was authorized to perform operational tests, reported error rates on USAJobs.gov 3.0 between 55 percent and 73 percent during a two-day period after the initial debut.

OPM officials blamed the bulk of the technical problems on extremely high volumes of traffic of 2.5 million visitors a day, which they said was five times higher than previous peak times. OPM also said they were addressing the situation as fast as possible.

After several days of predominantly negative user feedback, in the late afternoon on Oct. 14, Angela Bailey, associate director of employee services and chief human capital officer at OPM, issued a statement saying USAJobs.gov was now operating properly.

“The site is ‘quieting down’ now and working properly,” Bailey said in an emailed statement. “We have staff dedicated to all aspects of USAJOBS, from the help desk to the technicians. We’re all over it!”

She explained further: “We have had unprecedented volume in the history of USAJOBS since launching the new site on the 12th. In fact, it is like Christmas rush, times five. Think of it like everyone rushing the door at once to get the latest new video game. It understandably made the system a bit sluggish. We have our best engineers on the issue, working it around the clock, and as of today, there is noticeable improvement to the system. Not perfect, but certainly better than it was the first couple of days, and improving every hour.”

A day later, a third-party test of the system partially supported OPM’s claims. A spokesman for Avue, which conducted testing on Oct. 15, reported that the USAJobs.gov website operation improved on that date, with failure rates from 2 percent to 25 percent.

However, despite those lower failure rates, the search results for USAJobs.gov 3.0 continue to be “random and inaccurate,” the Avue spokesman said on Oct. 17.

For example, using identical search terms to find job listings on the site, separate searches returned 0 jobs, 47 jobs, 54 jobs, 516 jobs and 1,378 jobs, the Avue spokesman said.

The Avue officials also searched the term "porn" on USAJobs.gov 3.0 and the search engine returned 3,744 government jobs for that term, the spokesman said.

Furthermore, dozens of users commenting on Facebook on Oct. 17 indicated that USAJobs.gov’s problems are continuing.

For example, users reported a number of geographic mistakes, such as a listing that identified the Philippines as a U.S. state, and searches for jobs in Germany and Seattle returning listings for jobs in Delaware and Mexico, respectively. 

While one person complimented OPM on the site, many users expressed intense frustration with the inability to complete job applications on the new USAJobs.gov 3.0 website.

“I am pulling out the hair I have left. Simple searches don’t work,” posted one user on Oct. 17. “Why?...Why?” asked another.

“I hate to say it but in this case change was bad. The old site was much better,” another user wrote.

Another indication that USAJobs.gov continues to be unsettled is that OPM officials apparently have ceased most communications with USAJobs.gov users on Facebook and Twitter.

On Oct. 12 to Oct. 14, OPM officials, primarily USAJobs.gov Web Manager Dan Thibodeau, published dozens of statements on the website’s Facebook page. Many of the statements directly commented to users that their problems were being addressed. Others were “status messages” about the site’s technical problems.

At press time on Oct. 17, a handful of new messages had been posted by OPM on that date. Similarly, only a single new tweet was broadcast by the official USAJobs Twitter account. OPM officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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